Human body odor increases familiarity for faces during encoding‐retrieval task


Odors can increase memory performance when presented as context during both encoding and retrieval phases. Since information from different sensory modalities is integrated into a unified conceptual knowledge, we hypothesize that the social information from body odors and faces would be integrated during encoding. The integration of such social information would enhance retrieval more so than when the encoding occurs in the context of common odors. To examine this hypothesis and to further explore the underlying neural correlates of this behavior, we have conducted a functional magnetic resonance imaging study in which participants performed an encoding‐retrieval memory task for faces during the presentation of common odor, body odor or clean air. At the behavioral level, results show that participants were less biased and faster in recognizing faces when presented in concomitance with the body odor compared to the common odor. At the neural level, the encoding of faces in the body odor condition, compared to common odor and clean air conditions, showed greater activation in areas related to associative memory (dorsolateral prefrontal cortex), odor perception and multisensory integration (orbitofrontal cortex). These results suggest that face and body odor information were integrated and as a result, participants were faster in recognizing previously presented material.

Human Brain Mapping, 41(7), pp. 1904–1919
Valentina Parma
Valentina Parma
Research Assistant Professor in Psychology